Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Title: Necessary Lies
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.


Although this is not the kind of book I would normally choose to read, I'm so glad I took the time to read through Necessary Lies. Enlightening, touching, and often thoroughly suspenseful, this tale of oppression, prejudice and the few who truly cared, is most certainly going on my to-be-read-again shelf.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated
sterilizations and racial tension, this book alternates between the points of view of Ivy Hart and Jane Forrester. Ivy, a fifteen-year-old girl who has to take care of her grandmother, retarded sister, and nephew needs to trust somebody with her biggest secret of all. Can the enlightened social worker, Jane Forrester, be trusted?

Told in first person by, mainly, the two main characters, Ivy and Jane, this book truly reaches out to the reader. As both the dialogue, as well as the narration of the two characters, are written in the prose of the period, it places the reader right there in North Carolina’s countryside.

Although this is not exactly a romance, the masterfully written romantic element was presented in a positive way with a slightly cryptic twist. To make things truly interesting, the answer to said cryptic twist is only revealed at the end of the book.

I was appalled at the injustices perpetrated by both the state and the rich farmers who had control over the less fortunate people in the community. At times I really sympathized with Jane as she tried to sort through the net of intrigue and lies spun by both the welfare workers, as well as the farmers.

Despite the heartbreak, unfairness, and despair depicted in this novel, it is a heartwarming and captivating tale that I definitely recommend as a must-read.


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I'm the author of 23 novels published in more than twenty languages. I like to write complex stories about relationships between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and friends. Although the thematic focus of my books often revolves around family, love, compassion and forgiveness, my stories usually feature a combination of suspense, mystery and intrigue.

I live in North Carolina with my significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and my shelties, Keeper and Cole--the only non-reading members of the household!

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